One question which is being asked with greater and greater frequency by householders today is: what is the best way to dispose of the increasing amount of waste electronic goods which clutter up our homes? The succinct answer to this question is simple – recycling is the best way to dispose of electronics.
Consider that many electronic items contain metals, plastics and batteries – for instance circuit boards alone contain polybrominated flame retardants, selenium and cadmium, which are all hazardous chemicals. As a result through improper disposal, incineration or going into landfill, electronic materials can release harmful, hazardous chemicals into the environment.
The fairly recent Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has been running for around three years, the main aim being to cut the amount of electrical and electronic equipment sent to landfill or incinerated. As a result, you may find that recycling facilities are more abundant than they were around five years ago. County Council staff may be able to advise you of locally run businesses that can dispose of or recycle your electronic waste for you. Many recycling centres will have safe disposal or recycling points for batteries, CDs, computers, and large and small electrical appliances.
There are some furniture aid companies that will be only too happy to take larger electronic ‘white goods’, such as computers or televisions. Commonly these companies help previously homeless or vulnerable individuals and families to set up a new home. They rely on donations from the general public, so although your television may be old and too small for you, it could still have years of use for someone else.
SMALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Smaller electronics such as mobile phones and palm computers and computer components are cited as a problem, as they are upgraded and disposed of more frequently than larger electronics.
Electronics such as circuit boards can be sent to specialist recycling organisations, which dismantle them and reuse the copper, silver and gold. This helps to reduce the amount of raw materials used in manufacturing. You may have to trawl the net for a commercial recycling organisation in your region, as they are not as widespread or as accessible as council-run recycling centres. Many voluntary or business to community organisations will take on your old computers.
If in working order, your old ‘outdated’ computer can be sent on to community charity groups, schools or even out to third world countries. Reputable companies will advise you how to make sure that all your personal data from old hard drives is removed and protected – simply use your search engine to locate the appropriate recycling company for your needs.
Likewise, mobile phones are also easily recycled. In some third world or eastern European countries, landline infrastructures are poor, so mobile phones are a much better alternative. ActionAid and Oxfam are two well-known and widespread organisations that will take your old mobile phones off your hands. Many charities can reconfigure mobile phones to become emergency lines for people vulnerable to violent crime. It’s all a case of knowing who will take what electronic devices from you.
With legislation in place, manufacturers are continually being pushed to make recycling of their devices much easier, so in time this dilemma should be much more simple to resolve. However, as already mentioned, the best course of action is to contact your local council to see if there is anyone in the area affiliated or known by them to help you properly and safely dispose or recycle your electronic equipment.